How can I erase my AIM logs to avoid identity theft?
I typed out my Social Security number while chatting on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). I immediately knew after I did it that it was a mistake since IM is not secure. My question is, can you show me how to wipe out any trace of my Social Security number from any cookies, logs, or scripts (or anywhere else on my computer and my chat-mate's computer where it may be stored) so that someone cannot get their hands on it? Basically, I'm trying not to be a victim of identity theft. Thanks!
First off, let me suggest that you take a deep breath and not get overly alarmed about this situation. While transmitting your SSN is not a great idea and while IM isn't secure, the actual chances of a program identifying this sequence of digits in the data stream or by scraping your IM logs is pretty tiny.
Nonetheless, I never transmit critical information of this nature through any electronic means, be it email or instant messenger system. That's why we still have phones. :-)
Having said that, you should be able to scrub your system fairly effectively to remove any log of your communication in AOL's AIM system.
You don't indicate if you're using Mac or PC, so let's go through the steps for both. I'll start with the Mac because, um, because it's earlier in the alphabet!
On the Mac, start up AOL Instant Messenger, then click on AIM --> Preferences and you'll get to a pretty complex Preferences window. One of the options is "logs":
You can see that I opt not to log any of my chats, but it's cool to know that you can log them if you want and encrypt them to keep prying eyes away. That's not what you need, though, so click on "Show AIM Logs" and it'll actually take you to the following directory on your Macintosh:
/ Users / your User id / Library / Logs / AIM / your AIM id's Logs
If that's empty, you should be safe. If not, delete the logs from your discussion with your buddy - or delete all of them to be even more safe.
Now, let's flip to the PC and see how it looks on Windows XP.
First off, I've upgraded to the fancy new Triton release of AIM on my PC, so while I have gained cool stuff like VOIP capabilities, the entire interface has been redone, so everything's different. To delete a chat log in AIM Triton, open up an IM window with your pal then choose Edit --> Clear IM History:
In the earlier releases of AIM, there's a Log Manager you can find on the File menu: one of the options there is to delete your IM logs, and you should be able to find the log file from your discussion and delete it.
Now, send your friend to this article too and ask him or her to go through the appropriate steps to delete the record of your conversation on their end too.
This should clear up any possible problems you may encounter.
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